BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Robert Bathurst, currently starring as Charles III at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the play of the same name, invites you to attend his one-night only performance of Love, Loss and Chianti tomorrow evening (January 9) at 7:30 pm at Gruen Galleries, located at 226 West Superior.
Written by Christopher Reid, the one-night only performance of “Love, Loss and Chianti” also stars Sarah Chalcroft , who stars as Princess Diana in Charles III. Charles III runs through January 15 at the Shakespeare Theater.
Robert, who will be forever recognized as Sir Anthony Strallan, the dashing diplomat from Downton Abbey who stood up Lady Edith at the altar (and earlier had uttered the delightful “Have you done something jolly to your hair?”), returns to London soon to reprise his other TV role in Cold Feet as the pompous management consultant David Marsden.
“My character’s actions left Lady Edith free go out into the distance and explore. I was in just the first and third series, and in the first we had no idea if it would be a success. Cold Feet, a great hit several years ago, was brought back to fill the slot left vacated by Downton Abbey. It is about six characters living in Manchester still trying to recapture their youth. We pick up where the series left off and it is hugely fun.”
In the meantime, Robert and his wife Victoria are exploring Chicago with gusto. When he had just returned from “a crawl through the U-boats at the Museum of Science and Industry,” Bathurst explained why he has fallen for our fair city of Chicago.
“There is nothing like your can-do attitude. Being in that lovely museum designed for the Columbian Exposition and seeing the University of Chicago built by the Rockefellers so soon after the Fire—what confidence your history exudes. And the Poetry Foundation—it is extraordinarily civilized to have a building as beautiful as that dedicated to poetry.
“The other day, my wife, who is an artist, and I decided to trawl around River North. We found Gruen Galleries and loved their huge abstract paintings. The space seemed perfect. I asked if I could put on the performance there, and they said yes right away. This really summed up the spirit of the city for us.”
London actress Charlotte Asprey introduced her close friend Judy Block to the Bathursts, who are parents of four children. One of Chicago’s stellar leaders and best guides, Judy took the Bathursts to the Field Museum, along with their daughter who is a student at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop and an adjunct professor at the University.
Bathurst premieres Love, Loss and Chianti in the US with this Gruen Galleries performance. Seating is first come first serve with a suggested $10 donation.
“Christopher Reid is hugely popular in the UK poetry world and is a winner of the prestigious Costa book award. Our first performance is A Scattering, a non-mawkish and beautifully executed narration of the death of his wife. The second narrative poem is Song of Lunch, set in an Italian restaurant, showing a disastrous first date following her death, which is both humorous and poignant, and is somewhat like the Orpheus myth.”
Bathurst had first met Reid when they participated in a Derbyshire literature festival and shared a house during the event.
“I had heard A Scattering and thought it was such a profound statement of love and loss. I was so moved by it. I wanted to ask him if I could purchase the literary rights, but it didn’t seem right to bring it up at the breakfast table we shared. I was then asked by BBC4 to read it, and Reid seemed pleased. I finally asked him if I could purchase the rights, and he said he was delighted.
“I just attended a poetry slam at the Green Mill and couldn’t resist writing Christopher that there had been a tap dancing interlude between the readings. I think he was most impressed and wrote back that we haven’t combined tap dancing and poetry to date in England.”
Born in the Gold Coast, the British colony that became Ghana, Bathurst attended Pembroke College, Cambridge. He made his professional acting debut as Tim Allgood in the legendary Noises Off at the Savoy Theater. In addition to many highly popular TV shows, he has appeared in plays ranging from Coward to Chekhov. He once played a prime minister, and is greatly enjoying playing a future king in Mike Bartlett’s political drama Charles III.
“The past is fixed, and we know what happened, but we can only surmise what will happen in Charles III. We are not burdened by the weight of history. In the play, the queen is dead and the characters struggle for power. Some of what occurs with the government when the new king refuses to sign a bill is plausible because we do have a batty constitution in the UK, but somehow it works. It has been fascinating to be a part of it.”
Very much a leading resident of the British TV scene, Robert gave this comment when asked if The Crown will surpass the popularity of beloved Downton Abbey: “It really is getting a reputation for being a brilliantly shot costume drama. It is getting a fine critical reception and great word of mouth coverage. Netflix seems to have a real hit on its hands.”
Love, Loss and Chianti plays for one night only on Monday, January 9 at 7:30 pm at Gruen Galleries, 226 West Superior Street. Tickets will be available at the door for a $10 donation. For further information contact Gruen Galleries at 312-337-6262.